(Matt’s note: The Law Library of Congress is using this space to do a couple of ‘guest posts,’ written by Andrew Weber. The following are his words.)
In the three years that I have been working at the Law Library of Congress, I have learned that its mission is ‘to provide research and legal information to the U.S. Congress as well as to U.S. Federal Courts and Executive Agencies, and to offer reference services to the public ‘. Usually, that means analytical reports, briefings, and testimonies for Congress or other government agencies. Sometimes it includes presenting to small groups or conferences on issues such as the rule of law.
While I didn’t get to see the group of foreign law specialists participate in a presentation to judges from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in the morning, I did see their appearance in the afternoon at the ABA Section of International Law Spring Meeting. They presented on the Rule of Law within the different cultures and religions of Japan, Israel, and Spain.
My colleagues shared insights on: whether the Japanese Prime Minister’s visits to the Yasukuni Shrine violated the principle of separation of state and religion; the law of the Jewish and democratic state treats religious groups in Israel; and the legal treatment of Muslims in Spain. Following these presentations was Dr. Susan Karamanian, a professor at the George Washington University Law School. She spoke on the prospects and challenges of commercial law in the Arab States of the Gulf and how each of the states interprets Islamic law in this area.
The presentation posed, I think, an interesting challenge: across cultures, the interplay between religion and government can cause problems or provide a strong foundation for the rule of law. It allowed for a discussion of whether the rule of law is strong enough to withstand pressures from a variety of religious and cultural systems. And it left an important question remaining that needs further exploration: What value is there in considering foreign law’s treatment of the separation of state and religion when examining our own?